Low Frequency Gravitational Wave Astrophysics

Project: Research project

Project Details


The field of low-frequency gravitational wave astronomy is evolving as the design of the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) is in flux. Changing mission architectures naturally has an impact on the science goals and science capabilities in gravitational wave astronomy, requiring astrophysicists to pursue a deeper understanding on three fronts. (1) What astrophysical knowledge can be extracted from populations of sources based on their relative strengths in the data streams? (2) How are the science returns maximized as detector capabilities evolve? (3) How do evolving detector performance expectations alter the science that is possible with space-based gravitational wave detectors? This work proposes a series of investigations that address these questions along two broad avenues of inquiry. The first thrust of this effort is designed to examine how the population of ultra-compact galactic binaries can be better characterized by multi-messenger observations and statistical population analyses. While these investigations are astrophysical interesting in and of themselves, they are particularly relevant as detector designs evolve because the binaries are a limiting source of astrophysical noise that must be mitigated in order to maximize the science return for other sources, such as massive binary black hole inspirals and extreme mass ratio inspirals. The second thrust of this effort is geared toward characterization of the detector itself, since this ultimately fixes our ability to answer astrophysical questions. While many high-fidelity simulators exist for the original LISA mission architecture, the work proposed here will develop a new, flexible suite of prototyping tools analogous to the "Online Sensitivity Curve Generator" (which the PI authored). These tools will allow astrophysicists and data analysts alike to rapidly assess whether new proposed architectures for a space-based gravitational wave observatory will enhance or adversely impact the science they are interested in. The work in this proposal supports NASA's current Strategic Goals, particularly Goal 2.4, "Discover how the universe works, explore how it began and evolved". The work pursuant to understanding the evolution of space-based gravitational wave detectors supports Goal 3.1, "sponsor early-stage innovation in space technologies to improve the future capabilities of NASA."
Effective start/end date9/1/138/31/17


  • NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (NNX13AM10G)


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